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Put a green stamp on your travels

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The water was freezing. That would have been fine if I was in Bermuda in August, but I was in Berlin in October. It wasn't refreshing, it was a necessary sacrifice for the morning shower.

“Are you crazy Robyn?”

Maybe, but I was also feeling guilty. Why? Well I was in Berlin on part of my mission last year to find ten trips from London that cost under $100. As I researched Berlin, I found a hostel for $15 a night that would also save on the environment.

How could I pass?

I couldn't. That's because when I travelled around the world in 2009, I changed continents mostly by plane. I calculated that I flew at least 50,000 miles in one year. That's a lot of atmosphere that I contributed to depleting (obviously if you are not one to believe in global warming you will probably stop reading here, sorry).

I started feeling guilty somewhere over South America, but I am no Michael Palin ('Around the World in 80 Days' without a plane. Remember?) so I descended onto Bermuda's soil via American Airlines. Which brings me to this week's Rock Fever column: Travelling green. So what in travel is going green?

Everything, is the easy answer. Yes, even (dare I speak the word) hostels. My hostel in Berlin, Jetpak Forest, was 100 percent run by renewable energies. Maybe that's why I didn't have hot water first thing in the morning? Ok so it's not perfect, but I felt perfectly good about myself as I used the wifi, watched TV and enjoyed being ensconced in the Grunwaldsee Forest (wild pigs are included for free viewing at dusk!).

And Jetpak Forest is not the only hostel that has turned “green”. The international organisation for hostels, Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com), has committed itself and its worldwide network to sustainability ie socially, ecologically and economically.

Backpackers are already on the economic doorsteps of sustainability since we generally stay in hostels run by locals (no chains for us). But we are also more likely to use water bottles, stretch the limit of sewer systems (ie Turkey and a clogged drain that was more than 500 years old!) and waste paper as part of our tours. We have a lot to answer for when we are travelling....maybe starting with an eco-lodge could help?

Not into hostels? Want to find out if your hotel is environmentally friendly? Check out www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com. Want to know if a Bermuda hotel is listed? I won't spoil the surprise.

But perhaps all of the “green” talk should start before you travel? Well, Bermuda really has only one question to ask as you know: how can we fly green? Unless you take one of the very few cruises from our Island every year, you're going to be flying.

To start you can take a non-stop flight. It cuts down on the carbon offsets. Ok, Robyn, that's great, but if we want to leave the Island we have to stop somewhere on America's East Coast before moving inland and we have to stop in London before going continental!

You're right, but you can make that second flight a non-stop flight! And when you take your flights you can ensure you have an e-ticket (ie no printing necessary!)

Why waste all that paper? It's just not necessary. I had at least ten flights going around the world and not a single piece of paper printed before I boarded. You can do it too.

Want to book a flight and feel good about it? Well use: http://gogreentravelgreen.com/searchgreentravel.html and they will donate 50 percent of profits to an environmentally-friendly organisation!

What about carbon offsets the airlines like to tout? Well that's a tricky one. To be honest I don't know how much I believe in them and nor do most experts out there. What is a carbon offset? Essentially it allows travellers to donate money to an organisation that will plant a tree while you fly to China.

Ok maybe not that absurd, but the problem is the companies that are offering these carbon offsets are not all that accountable, nor are they all non-profits! So where does your money go? Well as much as 80 percent can go into their admin costs. And the rest? Well you get a smaller tree and that flight to China. Well, stay at home and save the planet. Want to learn more about it? I found this useful site: www.gogreentravelgreen.com.

And finally when you land, check out the options for public transportation! Which is why, I also believe, backpackers are greener travellers: we haven't got the money for private transportation! Hanging onto a public Thai bus is the only way we're going to make it North.

But more than waste-spewing buses, there are cities that have introduced the idea of renting a bicycle. In London, now, you can use your credit card to “pick up” a bike at one of the Barclay's docking stations (ie bike rack) and return it to another when you're done. Visit: www.tfl.gov.uk for more information on the scheme. Paris also has a similar gig.

Or you could be like Australian extreme eco travellers Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer and sail a car some 3,000 miles across their continent! Yes I wrote sail. That's because this inventive duo decided kite-surfing on sea wasn't good enough and instead could be harnessed to “drive” them to Sydney. Visit www.wind-explorer.com for a view.

Ok, so most of us are not going to do that, so go plant a tree, buy a re-usable water bottle, fly in a plane and feel good about the environment! Because next week we're going green again! It's St. Patty's Day! Of course visit my website, www.robynswanderings.com, for more information.

The path to an environmentally friendly hostel in Berlin
Looking over Green Berlin!

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Published March 09, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated March 09, 2011 at 8:55 am)

Put a green stamp on your travels

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